Now It’s Their Turn: 97 Lawyer Bencher Candidates Running for Convocation

Colin Lachance

Photo: Colin Lachance

Pending any drop-outs, the list of candidates for lawyer bencher sits at a whopping 97, vying for 40 seats at Convocation. Nearly half the lawyer benchers who will be elected April 30 will be new to Convocation, as 17 of the 40 positions will be vacant. As with the paralegal bencher election last March, the Law Society produced a live webcast information session for potential candidates. The webinar is available online.

Significant issues Convocation will face for the next four years include: Alternative Business Structures (ABS); technological change; Access to Justice, to make legal services available to more Ontarians, including the self-represented; regulating unlicensed legal services providers and business entities; and proposed changes to the way lawyers and paralegals are trained.

Forty lawyer benchers are elected every four years by Ontario’s lawyers – 20 from inside Toronto and 20 from outside Toronto. Lawyer bencher elections operate differently than the paralegal elections and the Law Society has made some changes to the system with this election. In the 2011 lawyer bencher election, 53 candidates earned 15,592 votes for all regions. That’s almost twice the percentage of voters as in the 2014 Paralegal Bencher Election.

While the candidate bios and statements have not yet been published, some names familiar to the paralegal community are running. They include:

Morris Chochla – Past president of the Ontario Bar Association, Chochla was to speak against a motion about expanded paralegal scope of practice at the 2013 LSUC Annual General Meeting, and was involved in discussions that led to the motion being withdrawn.

Joseph Groia – A Toronto securities lawyer, Groia has had a long-standing dispute with the Law Society over civility-related discipline. He is challenging a one-month suspension and a $200,000 cost order.

Ben Hanuka – This Vaughan criminal lawyer’s platform includes a poke at paralegals. His election website states: “Paralegals in general lack the necessary standards in education, aptitude, skills and training to represent the public in court.”

Colin Lachance – The influential legal innovator and head of CanLII is stepping down from CanLII to run for bencher. Lachance invited Paralegal Scope Magazine to be among the first contributors to CanLII Connects, which now boasts thousands of case summaries and commentaries from some of the best legal writers in the country.

Darryl Singer – An engaging and genuine CPD presenter and Paralegal Scope contributor, Darryl says he wants Convocation to more closely reflect the legal community it oversees.

M. Anne Vespry – The Ottawa lawyer is an instructor for a paralegal program.

Convocation operates as a board of governors for the legal profession. Convocation sets policy and determines other matters related to the governance of Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals. Members of Convocation, called benchers, also sit on panels that hear discipline cases concerning lawyer and paralegal conduct, licensing, competence and capacity. Eight lay benchers are appointed by the government; ex-officio benchers are non-voting members.

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